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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 7, 2007

Albom puts his own life into his latest movie

By Mike Hughes
Gannett News Service

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Michael Imperioli and Ellen Burstyn star in the ABC television movie "Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day."


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Mitch Albom's tales sometimes hover above reality, with ghosts and angels and such.

"Oprah Winfrey Presents: For One More Day," the ABC movie Albom adapted from his novel, is like that. There's a car crash and a life-beyond-death twist.

Still, there's a very real person at the story's core.

"He wrote this to honor his mother," says Ellen Burstyn, who co-stars. "He said his father crept into his other stories, but his mother never had."

Posey Benetto, played by Burstyn and (in flashbacks) Samantha Mathis, ripples with Rhoda Albom's traits. "She doesn't pull any punches," Burstyn says.

One example is a library confrontation in the movie. It was taken directly from life, Albom says.

In small-town New Jersey, they had a routine. Each Saturday, his mother took him to the library; he'd get a ride home, book in hand, two hours later.

Once, when he was 9 or 10, Albom came out of the library to meet his mom with a Curious George book. "I had read it several times, so she asked why I had it again."

He had wanted "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," he told her, but the librarian said it was too difficult.

His mom fumed, marched in and confronted the librarian.

"Never tell a child something is too hard," she said. "And especially, never this child."

She grabbed "20,000 Leagues" and stormed out. "I think we stole it, basically," Albom says. "I don't remember the librarian checking it out."

On one hand, the librarian was right. The book was too hard, but he struggled through.

On the other, this made an impression on the kid. Books and writing were important.

Albom became and remains a sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press, and he has written several books himself four collections of columns, two sports books, a best-selling memoir ("Tuesdays With Morrie"), a short novel ("The Five People You Meet in Heaven") and even some plays (including "Duck Hunter Shoots Angel").

"I was working on another book when I called my mother, just to say hello," Albom recalls. "(Afterward,) I was filled with this whole sense of 'What's it going to be like to not be able to do that any more?' ...

"I know when she dies, I'm going to say, 'If I could just have one more day with her.' "

He postponed his other project and wrote about an alcoholic former baseball player (played by Michael Imperioli), torn by opposite parents.

The dad is a sports zealot. "I sort of made him the opposite of my dad," Albom says.

The fictional mom is similar to his real one with one key change.

"Across the street was the only divorced woman I knew," Albom says. "The ostracism she faced was amazing."

So the fictional Posey divorces and becomes an outsider. This is a rich character to play, Burstyn says. "Mitch Albom is a wonderful writer."